What Is a Family Mission Statement?
In the same way that businesses and corporations write goals and set agendas for each year, families can also have a set of core values that are unique to them. Who do you want to be as a family? What do you want to be known for?
A family mission statement can be as simple as a sentence stating who you want to be as a family. For example, “As part of the Smith family, we love and respect ourselves and each other.” Or, it could be the condensed version of lots of brainstorming and working together as a family to refine your objectives and family goals. In either case, it’s a great way to simplify some of your family’s values.
Why Should I Have a Family Mission Statement?
Most families don’t have a formal mission statement, but it can often serve as your North Star. When you know who you are as a family and what you want to be, it’s easy to identify behavior that doesn’t align with your goals.
My family motto is pretty simple: gracious speech. And our mission statement is equally easy to grasp. “We are a family that pursues excellence in all areas of life: minds, bodies, and character.” While I personally fell off the pursuit of an excellent body during the pandemic, remembering this mission inspires me to pursue excellence, not just for my benefit but for the benefit of my children.
What Should I Put in a Family Mission Statement?
There are plenty of ready-made templates you can find online to get you started. But often, the first step can simply be taking inventory of all the pep talks and things you find yourself repeating the most as a parent. While it can be tempting to make your mission a laundry list of every great and noble virtue, start with about three traits that you want to see manifest in your family members. This evaluation will help you settle into your core values. Examples include:
- Active Lifestyles
While all of these qualities, and many more, are wonderful attributes to instill within your family, most of the time, there are one or two things that really stand out.
Family Mission Statement Through the Generations
My parents never had anything close to a formal mission statement for our family, but two of the traits they valued most deeply would have been honesty and a sense of family unity.
My mother would often tell her children when they were especially young, “I can tell by your eyes if you’re lying,” guaranteeing that we couldn’t get away with anything. We would also get the standard pep talk, “We are a team, and we stick together. So when anyone ever says something mean about somebody in your family, you defend them. And if anyone wants you to gossip about your brother or sisters, don’t do it.”
I use both of those pep talks with my own kids from time to time, probably because they’ve become so ingrained in me over the years. It didn’t matter that they were never formally defined. Those action statements created a sense of unity in our family that continues to this day.
Family Mission Statements for Younger Kids
Your family mission statement will probably evolve depending on the ages of your kids. While overall collaboration can be beneficial to the whole family, very few toddlers (if any) can participate in this process in a meaningful way. So I would advise against letting your 2-year-old weigh in on crucial family decisions at the next family meeting.
But even if your kids are young, you can still foster a positive family culture and core family values. Parents can pick one or two values they want to emphasize and talk about them at the dinner table or everyday life.
For example, if you want to encourage your toddler to share, praise them when you see them sharing and lead by example. A family discussion on sharing would probably go over their heads. But positive reinforcement can be highly motivating when you notice good behavior.
Keep It Simple
A basic unified expression of sharing toys, saying “please and thank you,” clearing your plate after dinner, or picking up toys can go a long way. These core family values will almost definitely be more impactful for your kids than empty words of shared ideals.
So even though it might not seem overly sophisticated, if you have toddlers, your starter family mission could be as simple as, “In our family, we take care of each other.” It’s a pretty broad statement, but it’s something even young children can understand. It could also evolve into feelings of taking care of the community by volunteering as a family when everyone’s a little bit older.
Refining Your Family Mission Statement
Creating a family mission statement probably won’t be a one-time thing. Identifying and rallying behind shared values can be a learning process. For some families, refining your mission or family goals can become an annual event. It’s possible that certain specifics of your mission might change each year, and that’s okay.
Some families might want to incorporate individual goals within their mission statements. In my experience, the most successful ones are achievable goals that someone in your family could accomplish within the year. So while character goals like “be nicer” sound great, it’s always better to have actionable ways to put those goals into action.
As part of your family mission statement process, you might want to give everyone a written copy of your shared mission or even a token of the experience. For example, when I was a teenager, I went on a group camping trip, and on it, we all pledged to live our lives to the fullest and not let anything hold us back. As a reminder, we all took a small rock back home to remember that promise we made to ourselves. While I haven’t talked with anyone from that trip in over 20 years, I still have that small rock. If I need some motivation, I’ll take out the rock and remember the promise I made to myself.
You don’t need a custom family sign spelling out your family values in your living room to extol the virtues of your family unit. If you have teenagers like mine, they’d probably roll their eyes at that type of gesture, anyway. But putting your overall vision in writing lets you all know what you’re striving for.
Sample Family Mission Statements
No two family mission statements should be exactly the same, but if you want a simple template to get you started while you’re figuring out how to create a family mission statement, you can use one of these two options for a template.
Bullet points are fantastic for highlighting a few key character attributes. You really don’t need more than three major points, even though the example has 5, but it’s succinct and easy to remember. Creating a single sentence synthesizing your mission works well, too. It’s a nice reminder of who your family is and what matters to you.
If you’re looking for more specifics on developing your overarching family mission, check out Stephen Covey’s book, “How to Develop Your Family Mission Statement.” He considers this process to be the “singlemost important and far-reaching activity” for your family. For him, the process of coming together as a family and talking about your shared goals is more significant than the end statement.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the process of figuring out how to achieve “big picture” goals for your family, you could start with Atomic Habits by James Clear. It offers some helpful insights on creating systems and processes that can help set you up for success, emphasizing how small habits yield powerful results. While atomic habits won’t necessarily help craft your mission statement, they can help reinforce your overall purpose as a family. They can give you helpful strategies to emphasize family behaviors you want to encourage and diminish those that aren’t adding to your family mission.
Your Family Identity
At the end of the day, what do you want your family to represent? Who do you want to be? What are your unique family values? These three questions contain the key to constructing your family mission statement.
But even if you’ve never put anything in writing, chances are, you’re communicating quite a bit about family life and what really matters to you and your kids. What are your most frequent pep talks? Which habits do you celebrate? Which behaviors do you discourage? Those are all components of your overarching family mission. And those are the attributes you’ll mold into your children that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.